February 9, 2008


An Enclave of Dartmouth Opens Up (C. J. HUGHES, 2/08/08, NY Times)

EDUCATION, as the saying goes, may be wasted on the young. But who says the same has to hold true for college towns?

Probably not the adults who are packing their bags for Hanover, N.H., where Dartmouth College holds sway, and its satellite villages, which are strung like beads along the Connecticut River.

Drawn by many of the same perks as the students — first-rate facilities, a commitment to the arts and spirited night life, all folded into a pitch-perfect rural New England landscape of inns, general stores and clock-tower churches — these second-home buyers are also discovering more beneath the surface of the region’s provincial tableaux.

Indoors, bistros throb with live Latin jazz, stylish women browse in designer T-shirt shops, and markets teem with enough cuts of sablefish, flounder and char to rival any big-city grocery.

Two decades ago, a Dartmouth diploma was almost a prerequisite for buying a second home in the region, real estate brokers say. But, in step with Hanover’s swiftly redeveloping downtown, recent arrivals don’t necessarily bleed Dartmouth green.

Take Elizabeth Ross, a real estate lawyer from Wellesley, Mass., and who is, of all things, a Harvard graduate. She spends weekends in Norwich, Vt., across the river from Hanover.

“Rather than buy a place on top of a mountain somewhere, we wanted a home near culture, where there were things to do,” said Ms. Ross, who enjoys the paintings at the Hood Museum at Dartmouth, films at the four-screen Nugget Theaters in Hanover and strong coffee at the Dirt Cowboy Cafe.

Other days she entertains guests in her home, which she shares with her husband, Bill O’Reilly, and their two sons. Converted from a 1950s ranch-style house, the two-story Cape has four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms and 2,900 square feet on three acres on a hill. The house cost $540,000 in 2003, Ms. Ross said and could sell for $700,000 today.

Year-rounders, including Dartmouth employees, surround Ms. Ross, but the feel is more seasonal in Post Mills, Vt., on Lake Fairlee, where flat-topped hills spill down to shores rimmed with sand and, this time of year, ice.

Neither this article nor the comments that follow should be taken as an invitation for wretched flatlanders to come here, there are already far too many, but there may be a useful bit of advice included.

Whether we have global "warming" to thank, or whatever, this has been just an awesome Winter in the Upper Valley. We've received record setting snowfall with regular substantial storms. As a result, the recreational conditions are in peak form.

Unfortunately, another result is that local schools have had delayed openings and cancellations out the wazoo. Combined with the various typical seasonal ailments kids are making it to school for a day or two a week.

This past week we not only had two snow days but our ten year old somehow still gets croup and sharing a house with him has been like being trapped in the seal pool at Sea World. Meanwhile, the five year old, who's as surly and inexpressive as his old man, developed some sort of ear infections. They were finally mostly better by Thursday and with another day off from school we decided to go out to the Dartmouth Skiway.

We'd had plans to meet a friend of The Daughter's there, but her father called and it turned out he'd caught a flu bug, so we took his kids with us. Then a friend of the Elder Son called and we ended up taking him too. Now they're all good kids, don't get me wrong, and even the Youngest will only go on "the big hill" these days, but they're still six screaming kids any way you slice it.

So, with conditions still perfect and school blessedly open yesterday, I decided to treat myself to an Asperger's Day. I went out there and skied by myself in blessed peace and quiet. Sadly, it's Winter Carnival and there were races on so there were a sub-optimal number of others there. But they were over on the race course for the most part and you had the hill and the chair lift mostly to yourself. I can hardly recommend such an antisocial break highly enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 9, 2008 8:47 AM

1) Aren't you a wretched flatlander? Of course, I'm a loutish Connecticutian and I can attest that nothing brings out the Nativist in me like watching flatlanders drive up housing prices by buying second houses up here.

2) I used that get that horrible barking winter cough when I was a kid too. It sucks as much having it as it does listening to it.

3) I didn't know you skied! Watching you ski must be like watching an ape roller skate. I don't ski anymore (bad knees) but I used to love going by myself on a weekday. I'd take the day off and practically have the whole place to myself.

Posted by: Bryan at February 9, 2008 11:38 AM

You Hampshire people must be wimps. I don't think the schools closed a dozen times in all the 15 years we lived in Vermont. Sheesh.

Posted by: erp at February 9, 2008 12:16 PM

New England = Baja Canada

Posted by: G-Man at February 9, 2008 2:18 PM